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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Study In Regret

The A to Z of You and Me - James Hannah, Peter Noble

A forty-two year old man is lying in a hospice bed, dying of liver failure. To occupy his mind he engages in a game that involves thinking of a part of the body for every letter of the alphabet. In so doing he conjures a series of memories and anecdotes.

 

From these disordered fragments the unhappy story of his life begins to emerge and as they do so, we begin to understand the weaknesses in his character - his inability to understand what was really important to him, the series of bad choices he made, the catastrophic effect these had upon him and the terrible resentment and guilt with which he has lived.

 

There is some acute observation here which really lifts this book at in places; but there is also the pull of sentimentality which causes it to sink elsewhere. For me, however, the main weakness is that there's not enough plot.  It's a study in regret experienced from a sick bed and there's only one place for the story to go.